Deep-pocketed streaming startup focused on premium short-form fare is making some moves a month ahead of its April 6 launch of a service that will start at $4.99 per month for an ad-supported tier.

Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor

March 6, 2020

4 Min Read
Quibi pitches 90-day free trial to pump early sign-ups

In a seemingly desperate ploy to gather an audience ahead of its April 6 debut, short-form video startup Quibi is pitching a 90-day free trial to people who pre-order the service.

The limited time offer comes a month before the launch of a service that will cost $4.99 per month with ads, and $7.99 without. Quibi, a premium service led by Hollywood icon Jeffrey Katzenberg and CEO Meg Whitman, will focus on mobile devices and short-form content.

Quibi will boot up with just north of 50 shows and movies, including Most Dangerous Game starring Liam Hemsworth and Christoph Waltz; Survive with Sophie Turner (Game of Thrones); and Elba v Block, an unscripted show focused on car stunts with Idris Elba and pro driver Ken Block. Watch the Elba v Block teaser below:

Episodes or chapters of shows and movies will be broken down into seven-minute to ten-minute chunks.

Quibi plans to produce 175 original shows and 8,500 individual episodes in its first year. T-Mobile has signed on as Quibi's exclusive mobile distribution launch partner.

Priming the pump
Quibi's lengthy free trial offer is an obvious move to accelerate the rate of signups and create a big base of users to keep its advertisers happy right out of the chute. Quibi is also trying to build a base amid a sea of other more traditional, premium streaming options. Those include many already on the market (such as Netflix, Apple TV+, Amazon Prime, Hulu and Disney+), as well as major ones on the way, including NBCUniversal's Peacock (set for an initial launch in April with corporate cousin Comcast and a national launch in July) and WarnerMedia's HBO Max, set to debut in May.

Further, Quibi will be challenged to draw consumers away from the time spent on free social media services that also feature short-form video content, such as Facebook, TikTok, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat.

In addition to priming the pump with content, Quibi is also refilling its coffers.

Quibi said this week it closed a $750 million second round of funding that extends its total capital past $1.75 billion. Quibi didn't announce who participated in the latest round, but told The Wall Street Journal that it included a mix of new and existing partners.

Quibi's business model relies on both ad sales and subscriptions. It announced last fall it had booked about $150 million in ad sales from advertisers such as Walmart, PepsiCo and Google, which is also one of Quibi's key technology partners. Quibi's ad load will be 2.5 minutes per hour, versus the 17-minute average for traditional TV.

But the latest round indicates it needs a lot more funding to help it turn the corner in a business that will require heavy-duty investments in content production as well as massive marketing to draw people in.

"We always have to remember it's a new brand, a new product offering, a new technology platform," Whitman told the WSJ. "We just want to make sure we have the financial flexibility and runway to build a long-term business."

Quibi has also invested in a technology designed to optimize the mobile video experience. Quibi's proprietary "Turnstyle" technology, for example, aims to maintain the full-screen experience as content is viewed in portrait or landscape mode on a mobile device.

But rather than simply cropping or expanding the frame for each mode, Quibi's content partners will edit discrete versions for viewing in landscape and portrait mode. Quibi's platform, meanwhile, will deliver the asset for each orientation at the same time, enabling a seamless experience as the viewer rotates the phone from portrait to landscape mode and vice-versa.

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— Jeff Baumgartner, Senior Editor, Light Reading

About the Author(s)

Jeff Baumgartner

Senior Editor, Light Reading

Jeff Baumgartner is a Senior Editor for Light Reading and is responsible for the day-to-day news coverage and analysis of the cable and video sectors. Follow him on X and LinkedIn.

Baumgartner also served as Site Editor for Light Reading Cable from 2007-2013. In between his two stints at Light Reading, he led tech coverage for Multichannel News and was a regular contributor to Broadcasting + Cable. Baumgartner was named to the 2018 class of the Cable TV Pioneers.

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